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The Chymical Wedding (1989)

par Lindsay Clarke

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By the author of Sunday Whiteman, this novel of intellectual obsession and passion concerns two groups of people who are united in their investigation into the great experiment of nature in a Norfolk village, but divided by a century of time.
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Really should have given up on this earlier. It's quite well written, and the story is competently told. The problem is that the author is altogether too credulous.

Practically, although it pretends otherwise, the plot relies upon hermeticism and other esoteric nonsense being credible. Which apart from anything else simply isn't interesting: if I want to read about over-indulged bollocks I'll read.L Ron Hubbard.

Secondly, the author clearly lives in a small "Little Britain" world, and isn't able to provide an external critical view of that. At one point a character in all earnestness goes off to a Parish Council meeting. Anyone who can write about that without acknowledging the faint ridiculousness of it all (ala Vicar of Dibley) is in a very different place to me. A bit of irony would have done this book wonders. ( )
  sometimeunderwater | Nov 8, 2018 |
Clarke can write, but I'm not at all sure I'd describe this book as well-written. He does a fair job of making his bitter and frustrated contemporary hero real yet sympathetic, but manages neither with his 19th-Century characters.

He occasionally writes and thinks extremely well, he sometimes writes laborious descriptive passages and falls back on intellectual crutches like "the bomb."

The set up for the novel is that there is, possibly, a key to a powerful truth--an alchemical power altogether more friendly to our nature and external nature than contemporary technology--in the archives of an old estate in Norfolk.

What the characters find is . . . true, but not terribly powerful. ( )
1 voter ehines | Aug 26, 2012 |
The Chymical Wedding covers a lot of ground; at the heart it is a meditation over two time periods about the nature of love, friendship and creation. Whether this creation is sexual generation, or poetry, or the uncovering of mysteries - Clarke shows us how this is both utterly mysterious and completely mundane at the same time - how the forces that can drive people to destruction can also lead them to lead quiet lives.This novel is a romance and a tragedy and, at many times a comedy; a book very much of its time with its preoccupation with nuclear destruction and also a time travelling narrative of complexity and sophistication. And, despite its length and meanderings, the narrative is tight and the drive to the conclusion very readable.
  otterley | Jun 5, 2011 |
'How to find our way back? How to realize a whole vision of life? Not some self-sealing intellectual construct; no shabby, patchwork compromise, but a regenerative, transcendent change. One that reconciles matter with spirit, heart with mind, the female in us and the male, the darkness and the light. That was the problem which engaged the spiritual intellect of the true alchemist. That was the Elixir, the Stone, the Gold . . . aurum non vulgi - no common gold. they are all symbols for what cannot be said - only experienced. As is', he added pointedly, 'the chymical wedding - the promise of which you saw celebrated in your dreams.'

In the Norfolk village of Munding in the middle of the 19th century, Sir Henry Agnew struggles to transform hermetic secrets into poetry, while Louisa Agnew, his daughter and alchemical soror mystica, decides to write a book that will act as an introduction to her father's work. In the 1980s a poet called Alex Darken comes to the village to lick his wounds after the collapse of his marriage, and becomes entangled with the elderly poet Edward Nesbit and his young lover Laura, who are investigating the Agnews' work and the mystery of Louisa's frater mystica.

I thought that this would be my type of book, since it features alchemy, green man and a church with a sheela-na-gig embedded in its wall. Unfortunately, both eras were peopled with obsessive drama queens, and by 120 pages from the end I had lost patience with their idiotic behaviour. As I was so far through I forced myself to finish it anyway, but it's my least favourite book of the year so far. ( )
2 voter isabelx | Apr 28, 2011 |
A well written, if sometimes bewildering, novel, "The Chymical Wedding" draws heavily on iconic figures and allegory. In order to enjoy it, the reader needs to have a good understanding of Hermetic Mystery. A decent grounding in psychology helps as well. The book is placed in the 80's and the portion of it that is "contemporary" seems very dated somehow. Stll, all said, it is a book that makes one think. ( )
1 voter turtlesleap | Aug 19, 2010 |
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Is not this, perhaps, the secret of every true and great mystery, that it is simple? Does it not love secrecy for that very reason? Proclaimed, it were but a word; kept silent it is being. And a miracle too, in the sense that being with all its paradoxes is miraculous.
C. Kerenyi, Introduction to a Science of Mythology
Reality favours symmetries and slight anachronisms.
Jorge Luis Borges, The South
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In that part of the world the sky is everywhere, and the entire landscape seems to lie in abasement under its exacting light.
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By the author of Sunday Whiteman, this novel of intellectual obsession and passion concerns two groups of people who are united in their investigation into the great experiment of nature in a Norfolk village, but divided by a century of time.

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